Skip to comments.Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past
Posted on 01/11/2008 5:55:36 PM PST by Coleus
Frontpage Interviews guest today is Bruce Bartlett, the former deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for economic policy under George H.W. Bush. He was the former executive director of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and he also served in the Office of Policy Development at the White House under Ronald Reagan. He is the author of the new book, Wrong on Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past.
FP: Bruce Bartlett, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Bartlett: Thanks for the opportunity to discuss my new book.
FP: What inspired you to write this book?
Bartlett: I think the seeds were sown during the Trent Lott affair a few years ago. As you remember, Lott was then Senate Majority Leader and his long-time colleague, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was retiring. Lott had some kind words to say about Thurmond that were widely misconstrued by those on the left and in the major media as endorsing Thurmonds racist past. It is, of course, well known that Thurmond had once been an advocate of segregation and ran for president in 1948 as a Dixiecrat. But Thurmond renounced his racist past when he switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in 1964. Nevertheless, Lott was pilloried for his comments and forced to resign his leadership position.
By contrast, when Senator Chris Dodd effusively praised Senator Robert C. Byrd not long afterwards, the media ignored Byrds racist past and gave Dodd a pass. Byrd, as is well known, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan back in the 1940sactually, he was a recruiter for the Klanand like Thurmond long ago renounced and apologized for that part of his life. This double standard bothered me and ultimately led me to write a book about the Democratic Partys racist past.
FP: What have you done in this book that no one has done before?
Bartlett: What I have done is assemble in one place the whole history of Democratic racism from Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson down to the present day. There are lots of obscure books published by university presses and articles in academic journals that examine this racist episode or that racist politician, but no one has ever connected all the pieces together before now. Frankly, I was astounded when I first became interested in the Democratic Partys racist past that no one had done what I have done before now.
FP: Tell us a bit about the Democrats dark past when it comes to race, especially in regards to Woodrow Wilson, FDR, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.
Bartlett: I grew up in New Jersey, where Wilson had been governor, so I thought I knew quite a bit about him. When I learned what a terrible racist he was I was taken aback. For example, one of the very first actions he took after becoming president in 1913 was to segregate the entire federal civil service. Where it was not possible to put blacks into separate buildings or offices, room dividers were installed to keep blacks and whites separated. Later, Wilson sponsored a showing at the White House of the racist film, The Birth of a Nation. Indeed, the author of the book upon which the movie was based, Thomas Dixon, was a close friend of Wilsons and a very outspoken racist.
Franklin Roosevelt was someone who really didnt care about black people one way or another. While assistant secretary of the Navy in 1913, he signed the order creating separate washrooms for blacks and whites in what is now known as the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House. When he established the Warm Springs facility in Georgia to treat polio victims in the 1920s, it was for whites only. And when Roosevelt had his first opportunity to appoint a member of the Supreme Court in 1937, he chose Hugo Black, a life member of the Ku Klux Klan from Alabama. Later Roosevelt appointed another outspoken racist, James F. Byrnes of South Carolina, to the Supreme Court as well. After leaving the Court, Byrnes ran for governor of his home state for the express purpose of blocking school desegregation.
Kennedy was basically a political opportunist who cultivated support among racist Southerners in his race for the White House in 1960. Indeed, his appointment of Lyndon Johnson from Texas as his vice president was a signal to the South that he would respect their position on the race question. Its worth remembering that until he became president, LBJ had opposed every civil rights measure that came up during his time in the House and Senate. Once elected, Kennedy basically sat on his hands and did nothing on civil rights. The famous march on Washington in 1963 led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was organized for the express purpose of putting pressure on Kennedy to do something on civil rights. And let us not forget that it was Robert Kennedy who authorized the FBI to tap the phones and bug the hotel rooms of Dr. King.
FP: How is it that the Democratic Party has been able, for so long, to hide its dark past --and to so successfully masquerade itself as the Party that has done the most for civil rights?
Bartlett: Well you cant blame the Democrats for trying to hide their racist history. I mainly blame the Republicans for letting them get away with it. Of course, the liberal domination of the universities also means that this history is never taught.
FP: You say that you mainly blame the Republicans for letting the Democrats get away with hiding their racist history. This is true of course. Why do you think the Republicans failed in this way? Why are Conservatives often so weak in fighting political war in your view?
Bartlett: Theyve gotten better. I think a key problem is that liberal domination of the media made it very hard for conservatives to get their message out. Now they can. Talk radio, the Internet, Fox news and the diminished position of liberal institutions like the New York Times have given todays conservatives opportunities that those of a previous generation could only dream about. For example, my book is published by a major New York publisher; 25 years ago no mainstream publisher would have touched it.
FP: For over a half century, African-Americans have largely voted for one party. Why? And what has been the result?
Bartlett: The big switch by blacks from the party of Abraham Lincoln to the party of Jefferson and Jacksonboth slaveowners, by the waycame about in 1936. Herbert Hoover actually carried a majority of the black vote in 1932. Blacks felt that in the midst of the Great Depression that the Democrats were doing more to help them economically. Nevertheless, Republicans continued to get about 30 percent of the black vote until 1964, when it fell to about 10 percent. Clearly, blacks were profoundly grateful to liberal Democrats for leading the way on enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and did not care much for Barry Goldwaters vote against that legislation. Still, it is worth remembering that the Civil Rights Act would not have become law without strong support from most Republicans in the House and Senate.
Over the years, Republicans have occasionally made efforts to attract black votes, but their failure discouraged anything major or systematic. It think Republicans believe that blacks are so wedded to the Democratic Party that it is simply a waste of time and effort to appeal for their votes. The result, unfortunately, is that African Americans end up being ignored by both parties. Because Republicans dont compete for their votes, the Democrats can take them for granted.
FP: The Republicans definitely have a problem in terms of attracting African-Americans. What steps do you think the party can take to counter it?
Bartlett: The first thing they have to do is reach out for the black vote. I think that black ministers and other black community leaders will give a fair hearing to any Republican who approaches them with respect and sincerity. My observation is that very few Republicans do this, perhaps out of a belief that blacks are so thoroughly Democratic that its a waste of time. They may also fear that lies about Republican racism are pervasive in the black community and lack an easy rebuttal. I hope that my book will give Republicans a story to tell that will make Republicans more comfortable in talking to African Americans.
Second, I think Republicans should recognize that blacks tend to be very sympathetic to their message on illegal immigration. African Americans have always viewed immigrants as economic competitors and political rivals. This was true of the Irish immigrants of the 19th century and is true of Hispanic immigrants today. Republicans might as well exploit this fact.
Third, I think Republicans should recognize that the generation of blacks that have grown up in the post-civil rights era do not hold the same commitment to the Democratic Party that their parents did. They know that the Democrats havent done anything for them lately and that a strategic realignment into the Republican Party holds promise for the black community. They know it would be better if their votes were sought by both parties rather than being taken for granted by one and ignored by the other.
Finally, I think Republicans need to put something on the table and I suggest in my book that thought be given to reparations for slavery. I did this knowing that it will be very controversialespecially with people like David Horowitz. But I am not talking about mailing out checks, but about using reparations as a framework to talk about things Republicans already favor, such as educational vouchers, enterprise zones in the central cities and things of that sort. I also think that if reparations are offered it should be coupled with abolition of things like affirmative action, minority set-asides and such. Viewed in this light, I think it may be possible to come up with a package of initiatives under the umbrella of reparations that would be acceptable to most Republicans and also be viewed as meaningful by many African Americans. I dont spell out any particular reparations program in the book; I just think it is worth talking about as part of an effort by Republicans to reach out to black voters.
FP: Lets talk a bit about the double standard that you refer to that inspired you to write this book. There is indeed a double standard. Republicans are definitely held up to a higher moral accountability than Democrats, and not just on racism. This phenomenon is clearly related to the moral high-ground that the Left always arrogates to itself. Can you talk a bit about the mindset involved here? What do you think are some of the roots of this double standard in our culture?
Bartlett: Theres no question that the double standard goes beyond the race issue. The essence of liberalism is that good intentions are all that matters; actual outcomes dont matter very much. Conservatism tends to take the opposite viewthat outcomes are all that matters and intentions count for little. Unfortunately, outcomes often take a long time to become evident. In the meantime, people tend to remember only the intentions, leaving conservatives at a disadvantage.
FP: Speaking of racism in the parties, what do you make of James Kirchicks recent piece in TNR on Ron Paul and the racist, homophobic newsletters etc?
Bartlett: As you may know, I worked on Ron Pauls congressional staff back in the 1970s. I dont believe for a moment that he has a racist or homophobic bone in his body. But he can be a bit naïve and overly trusting of people that he views as allies on the issues he really cares about, such as the debasement of the currency. That doesnt excuse him from not monitoring things that were said under his imprimatur. I think he needs to tell us who wrote the racist and homophobic things that appeared in his newsletters and give a better explanation for why he didnt monitor this material and act against it. After all, he is running for president and this at least reflects on his managerial ability; something voters are entitled to judge candidates on.
FP: Bruce Bartlett, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Bartlett: Thanks for the opportunity.
With the 2008 presidential election on the horizon and the country in turmoil over the primaries, New York Times bestselling author Bruce Bartlett brings to the forefront one of the most crucial and constant debates of our time: the issue of race. Through painstaking research of the historical evidence, WRONG ON RACE: The Democratic Party's Buried Past, debunks the commonly-held myth that the Democratic Party is the best party for African American voters. From the inaction of Jim Crow laws and the infamous "Dixiecrats" to John F. Kennedy's apathy toward civil rights legislation, Bruce Bartlett exposes truths that the Democratic Party would rather forget, especially in the face of a pivotal election season.Though Bartlett's
-- Andrew Jackson, considered the Democratic Party's co-founder, owned as many as 150 slaves. On one occasion he offered $10 extra for every 100 lashes given to a runaway slave up to 300 lashes.
-- When Democrats got control of the White House and Congress for the first time since the Civil War in the 1892 elections, they moved quickly to repeal the civil rights bills enacted by Republicans during Reconstruction.
-- Harry Truman joined the Ku Klux Klan in 1924.
-- As a senator, John F. Kennedy voted with the South against even bringing the 1957 civil rights bill up for a vote and courted racist Southerners like Alabama Governor John Patterson in his quest for the White House.
Bruce Bartlett leads the reader through a chilling history of racism, often ignored in the face of the "minority-friendly" Democratic Party of today. For the last seventy years, African Americans have voted en masse for one party -- one whose cultural history may be adversarial to their progress. With our nation on the cusp of major political change, and politicians vying for votes, Bartlett proposes that it is time for African American voters to reconsider.
Bartlett was a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and a treasury official under President George H.W. Bush. He is the author of the New York Times best-seller, Impostor: How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy, and he has written for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Commentary, The National Review, and Fortune. To schedule
Enlightening to say the least.
I wish Bartlett wouldn’t use the phrase “reparations.” I have a much better idea, and that is a full-scale class action multi-billion $$ lawsuit brought by Blacks against the Democrat party for its role in promoting slavery and racial oppression after its abolition. Payable to every Black American who can trace an ancestor to or has been here since before the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Sue the party into oblivion.
I’m 100% dead set against reparations against individuals. Thousands of individuals died during the Civil War to end slavery in this country. Their blood should not be ignored, neither should it be ignored that thousands more never had slaves of any kind.
In the years since slavery was abolished, there have also been types of reparations made through various “entitlement” programs.
All I see happening if there would be any kind of reparations is a worsening between the ethnic relationships, and would be based on newly created animosities as a result of this.
I know you are being sarcastic....I wouldn’t mind suit against the Rat party, however, for its past (and present) wrong deeds against all Americans and America.
No, that lawsuit I’m serious as a heart attack about. The Democrat party should be sued for crimes against humanity. I think a thorough airing of its historic record NEEDS to occur. 90% of Black voters have very little idea of the party’s history that they are supporting and that for every Black that runs as a Democrat knowing its history, continue to extend the hold the slave party has over Blacks. It has got to be broken.
That I can agree to (also in all seriousness).
Read up on the Indiana Klan and the Republican leaders that were taken down in the 1920s. It cuts both ways.
Before 2005, Republicans were making some effort to appeal to blacks, and Bush made a few inroads with them in 2004. There were some blacks, particularly younger ones, who were open to voting Republican in some elections. But Hurricane Katrina destroyed that.
bump for later
That was nothing more than media-fanned demogoguery and is no reason to stop the outreach coupled with a “reality check” if that garbage is brought up.